We took our kids to the Santa Cruz mountains today to introduce them to mushroom picking. I used to pick mushrooms as a girl in another part of the world, and those trips to the woods are among my fondest memories. However, I have never done it in California and was completely clueless as to which ones to look for or even when the mushroom season begins and ends. So today was as good a day as any other.
We ended up at a pretty high elevation.
We drove slowly along a winding road and it was so peaceful to watch conifers forming patterns on the opposite hill.
The area stays pretty wet (good for mushrooms supposedly), which promotes the growth of lichen and moss.
The high elevation and the dampness makes for bone-chilling cold, and we thought we better find some mushrooms fast before the kids start complaining. However, when we looked down at the ground, we saw not mushrooms, not even dirt or puddles, but what looked like lots of pine needles to my no longer sharp eyes.
We stood for a while deciding what to do, and then I felt something crawl up my leg. I looked down and saw the "pine needles" were moving.
They were ladybugs! Lots of ladybugs. Certainly thousands. They were everywhere.
We couldn't quite understand what they were doing there, so we looked them up when we came home. They are called convergent lady beetles (and they are a type of ladybug) that spend winters in large congregations like the one we saw. I certainly learned something new today.
What about mushrooms? Well, we saw one (actually two growing together) really really big one, and with a nice wavy shape,
and some others which we thought looked good for picking.
But by the end, I was looking more at lichen on oaks than at mushrooms. Captivating patterns.
So today's catch was not very impressive. We had fun though:-)